Last Sunday afternoon I went out for a hike on the hills around my house and made a huge mistake. No, the mistake wasn't going for a hike. After the long winter, I could stand to put in a few extra miles.
The mistake was not taking my camera. Anyone that has read this column for a while has read my preaching about making sure you always take your camera with you wherever you go because you can bet if you don't take your camera, the world's greatest photo op will appear.
I did exactly that, I had all the classic excuses. It's ugly out, I really don't feel like carrying that thing around today and I wasn't planning to go far. All great excuses, but I was wrong on all counts. It wasn't ugly at all, the sky was dazzling blue with nice puffy clouds and the gray bark on the trees made a great color combination. Since the leaves are still gone you can really see things that you normally wouldn't notice. I missed a great shot of a huge bees nest, some very curious cows, some really cool fossil rocks and at least six white tails. And since it wasn't ugly out, I did end up hiking a lot further than I had planned.
I've come up with the scientific theory that the further you go, the chance of a great photo op will increase proportionate to the distance traveled. I really didn't feel like carrying all my photo gear with me. My camera weighs considerably more than your average point and shoot, but it wouldn't have hurt me a bit to grab a camera and lens as I walked out the door.
With every mile I trudged, I realized the error of my ways. Then to add insult to injury I popped over a hill and about a hundred yards ahead of me was a monstrous black bear. Well, maybe it wasn't monstrous. Bears are like fish when you are telling the story; they are always much bigger than they actually appeared. But it was a bear, and I've spent time in the woods trying to get a photograph of a bear and never came anywhere near as close as this one was, other than the one that decided to take a look in my living room window one day a few years ago. I'll save that story for another day.
I suddenly realized that I had not actually left home without a camera and quickly reached into my pocket and made a feeble attempt at photographing the bear with my iPhone. As the bear dropped out of site I had nothing but an extremely poor photo to show for my effort. Needless to say, I've learned my lesson. Maybe next time I'll be like Yogi and be smarter than the average bear.
(Brent Kepner is the owner and photographer at Foto 1 Pro Photo in Elkins. He is a Master Photographer, Certified Professional Photographer and president of the Professional Photographers of West Virginia.)